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Battling Spam and Spyware

Last week, the Post's Business section featured a couple of stories that suggest we might be getting smarter about how to deal with two plagues of modern computing--spam and spyware.

First, Cindy Skrzycki (one of the few people with a byline more spellcheck-proof than my own) wrote in her Regulators column about the Federal Trade Commission's plans to nag companies whose ads have been distributed via spyware. That's a good idea, but New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo did this earlier and better--by publicly naming the offending advertisers instead of communicating privately with them. Skrzcyki wrote:

Cuomo...announced on Jan. 29 that Cingular Wireless, Travelocity.com and Priceline.com agreed to pay a total of $100,000 in fines to settle a spyware case involving a distributor called DirectRevenue.

We need public shaming of companies that would do business with a firm like Direct Revenue--among the lowest of the low when it comes to spyware attacks. You should know which firms chose to get in the gutter with these bums, so you can take your business elsewhere if you choose. Nothing gets a for-profit company's attention like the loss of business.

Then, on Friday, Carrie Johnson wrote about how the Securities and Exchange Commission had halted trading in the shares of companies advertised in "pump-and-dump" spam campaigns. Again, this is the right idea--by preventing people from making money off spam, you take away their incentive to spam people.

The SEC's action does, however, leave out one other group of people who contribute to the problem. That would be the people--to be technically accurate, the fools--who respond to junk e-mail in the first place. If you're ever tempted to act on a junk e-mail pitch, think about this: By taking that bait, you're showing the spammer that his ads work, and in turn encouraging him to keep being a pest.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 12, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen  
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